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Agriculture: A Bulloch tradition
Fair focuses on history, importance of farming
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Avery Kuykendall, 20 months, tries to entice a cow with a piece of straw while visiting the live farm animal dispaly during the Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair Friday. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff
      Before visitors to the Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair can get to the midway, they pass by a part of the fairgrounds that represent the fair's origin and theme. It's not just about rides and cotton candy; the Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair is an agricultural fair that celebrates and preserves the rich heritage of the region's agricultural industry.
       Inside the commercial building - the large tin barnlike structure that patrons must pass through after paying admission - there are many booths representing agriculturally-based businesses. But also, there is a table with the farming and produce entries - samples of prized crops that local farmers - and their children - proudly entered for competition.
       Stalks of corn, bunches of peanuts, baskets of pears and bowls of pecans; bundles of soybeans, a peck of late peas, or Bell and Mason jars filled with jams, jellies or other preserves that make one's mouth water. All of these products speak of the pride that goes hand in hand with growing and producing things on the farm or in the garden.
       Outside, the aroma of boiling sugar cane syrup wafts through the air, luring old-timers with reminisces of days gone by, and drawing the curious younger set who may have never tasted a swig of warm cane juice or nibbled on a chunk of fresh sugar cane.
       Mules were once used to pull the long arm of the cane mill, said Statesboro Kiwanis CLub member Thomas D. Anderson, who has worked the cane grinding exhibit for years. When he was a child and young adult, Anderson spent many a fall night at neighborhood cane grinding gatherings, he said.
       Sugar cane was an important part of the diet -on pancakes or biscuits and sometimes even links of homemade sausage. The everyday staple is a treat now,when maple syrup dominates the grocery store shelves.
       "All kinds of people like cane syrup with no additives," Anderson said.. "We sell it as fast as we can make it.
       He recalled the cane grindings of yore, when kids played hide and seek and drop the handkerchief, or cut sugar cane into " cane knots" and had wars, throwing the cane knots (joints of sugar cane) at each other.
       Leftover cane pulp was used to fill holes in the yard, or ground to feed cattle. The skimmings off the boiled cane syrup were fed to hogs - and "they got drunk as a bat and couldn't walk," he said. " That was funny, to see a drunk hog."
       Next door to the cane grinding exhibit, where visitors can watch how cane syrup is made, the Aldrich House stands as part of the fairground's Heritage Village. Donated to the Statesboro Kiwanis Club many years ago, the house is where several of the family's children were born just a few miles away. Inside, the house is furnished with antiques that show how a farm family lived in days gone by.
       "I love the house," said Carolyn Altman after a tour through the old wooden frame home. "It's a really important part of the heritage of ths area.. I also like to see the syrup boiling - it reminds me of how things used to be.
       The section of the fairgrounds also has "The Old Red Barn," which once was used as a storage area, but now houses various farm animals for visitors to see.Many visitors to the fair are unfamiliar with farm animals and are able to learn more about them as they stroll through.
       Another barn houses an array of antique farm equipment, donated through the years by club members and community members.  There is a grist mill where corn meal and grits are ground and sold. Next down the line is a blacksmith's shop, a honey bee display, and an old country store where people can see what it was like shopping in a small neighborhood mercantile.
       The store is more like a museum, with old fashioned products on display. It was donated to the club, moved from a spot in southern Bulloch County, and was preserved much like it was when it was still in business.
       Across the way, local 4-H and FFA members show lambs, hogs, and cattle in the livestock barn, another tribute to agriculture - this time, a reflection on the current status of the industry instead of the past,
       That's the point of having an agricultural fair - educating the public about farming and "where we've been and where we're going," said Statesboro Kiwanis Club member Walter Pease. As past livestock chairman and husband of current livestock chairman Deb Pease, he knows first hand how the agricultural fair can be educational.
       Earlier this week, a child questioned Deb Pease about milk in a bucket that had just been taken from a cow. The child refused to believe that's where milk came from, he said. " She said it came from Kroger."
       "It was the intent when we started this that it be an agricultural fair," Pease said. "Anybody can be a carnival, but an agricultural fair brings in a lot more elements than just a carnival. It kind of showcases" the farming history and community, he said.
       The club is "trying to continue that tradition," he said. "If we can't be an agricultural fair, we might as well sell the grounds and pack it up."

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